Adoption law changes - Good, but not good enough

Congratulations are due to the civil rights activists who have persuaded Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone to look again at her Adoption and Information Tracing Bill and cut from it at least one of its more obnoxious — and quite unrealistic — proposals.

The original draft had a clause that said adopted people who ask for information about their birth — chiefly medical and family histories — would first have to sign a presumably legal undertaking to not contact either or both of their biological parents.

The thinking behind that requirement, we are sure, was well-intentioned. While the circumstances in which adoption happens vary, they are more often than not traumatic. Many mothers, given that fathers tend to be less frequently involved, will spend their lives keeping the pain and sometimes regret buried in the mind’s deepest fissures.

Protecting their privacy to reduce the likelihood of unwanted contact from once unwanted children is a reasonable consideration, but it should not be allowed to trump the interests of adopted people, who, in their late teens and adulthood, want or need to know about their medical histories, and perhaps more. While some show no interest in who their birth parents were, many others do. In expecting them not to, we might as well wonder why cats look longingly at caged birds.

But even with the change Ms Zappone is making, her bill still leaves adopted children at an indefensible disadvantage when seeking unredacted information about their birth records. As the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has explained, the new measures would leave this country with adoption information laws “completely out of step” with those in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

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